A Journey to Healing

clearwater beachA Journey to Healing is a very personal account of a life changing event.

When Rick and I began the Midlife Road Trip years ago, we believed in our mission of “Travel as Therapy.” We have since traveled all over the world by air, road, rail and sea, and everything was moving along swimmingly. And then, there was a knock on my door that would change my life forever.

It was a lazy Saturday. Nothing much was happening, just unraveling from the week prior. I don’t remember the exact time the knock came, but as I opened the door, my heart sank. Standing before me were two State Troopers looking as though they were on official business. They asked if they could come in. As they entered, I called out to my husband who was in the other room.

We stared blankly at them, and they said, “We are very sorry to inform you that your daughter Kristel has been killed in a car accident.” I don’t remember much after that except muttering “Oh My God” for what seemed an eternity.

The next few days were a blur of sobs and disbelief. This couldn’t be happening; it couldn’t be real. But, it was.

What do we do now? Kristel has two daughters, Zoee 18 and Madi 12. In the blink of an eye, my husband and I became Madi’s legal guardians.

I thought to myself  “How can we ever get over such a loss?”

My daughter died the week before Thanksgiving. Everyone said, ” What an awful time for something like this to happen.” Truth be told, there is no good time, no better time, no worse time.

How do we go on? How do we celebrate with broken hearts and spirits? We cooked a turkey on Thanksgiving and ate pie, lots of pie. We stayed in pajamas, and we made it through.

But, how would we handle Christmas? That has always been THE family holiday. It would be the first Christmas for the girls without their mom. The old traditions were just too painful, still raw after just five weeks.

“Travel, it’s therapy. Practice what you preach Sandi”, I thought. Exhausted, we couldn’t deal with holiday crowds in airports and on highways, so we opted for a short drive to Clearwater Beach and the Sandpearl Resort. It was the best decision we could have made.

We arrived on Christmas Eve, and the Sandpearl lobby was decorated beautifully and to perfection. As we walked into our room, the lights from a full-size Christmas tree, adorned with ribbons and ornaments, greeted us. We were stunned, overwhelmed by their kindness. They knew of our loss and did something so incredibly thoughtful to ease our pain and create new memories. It was extraordinary. We inhaled the salt air, took in the beautiful view and sipped morning coffee on our balcony. It was the first time we were able to breathe in weeks. The kids were able to relax. Our healing was able to begin.

We had so many lovely moments during our stay. The staff, well they were more like family. They welcomed us in with open arms. A time that could have been so sad became hopeful and joyous.

You don’t have to travel far to begin a journey to healing.

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  1. Travel is the best therapy indeed. It’s what saved my marriage. Many people see this as running away from a problem, but we see it as a healing process and a way to a clearer mind. Much love and support Sandy! <3 from us at TheConstantRambler.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story. For us travel has been both respite and renewal as caregivers. I always say that as bad as it is for us there are others who have it worse. Travel is how we let go and a gift to our family. It’s not running away, rather it’s running towards something beautiful. Much love to you an yours.

  3. Leanne says:

    Loved your journal even though it was painful to read. As a Mother I can only imagine, but never want to experience what you did, are and will continue to experience. You have a beautiful family and they will keep you moving and experiencing what life has for you. Yes, travel offers us all so very much. It saddens me that so many don’t see its benefit. True, many cannot financially experience it and for them I am sad. Savannah, our 15 yr old, always wants a bigger house to keep up with the mansions her friends reside within. I just keep telling her that the 10 trips we take each year make her RICHER than a big house ever will. Someday she will thank us. Keep traveling, keep experiencing, keep living my friend xoxo

  4. Dealing with a loss is never ever easy but we’re so glad that you were able to discover a place to relax and find some peace this Christmas. Travel is a wonderful form of therapy and we’re grateful that you incorporated it into your holiday plans. We love you guys and are always here for you.

  5. Kathy says:

    Beautifully written Sandi. Glad you found a nice way to begin the healing process. (So healthy).

  6. Beth says:

    You you have been in my heart and my thoughts since I read the tragic news you’re always in my mind and I’ve been thinking about you and your family your strength and courage has been a touchstone for so many of us may you continue to heal and beautiful memories, sunsets, and skylines be a blessing for you and the family

  7. Susan says:

    Sending lots of love to you and your family, Sandi. I am so glad that you and your family started the healing process so close to home. The Sandpearl is one of our favorite places to just “be”. Wishing you guys a continued slow healing – I’m here if you guys ever want to escape somewhere off the beaten path 🙂

  8. Lori says:

    Love you!

  9. Oh Sandi, I know you told me when we were on the Viking Cruise that your granddaughter had recently come to live with you but I thought it might be too intrusive to ask why. I’m astounded that you were able to go on that trip at all. This is absolutely heartbreaking. I’m so sorry for such a devastating loss for you, your husband and your grandchildren. I’m glad you all have each other .I am sure that you’ll somehow find your way to a new sort of normalcy but I have no doubt that it will be very painful. Thanks for sharing your story. The old cliche about your life changing in a minute is so true.

  10. Annette says:

    Great article Sandy, My heart breaks for you but I am so glad to see that a healing is taking place for the whole family. Love you.

  11. Carol says:

    Oh Sandi. How I adore you. Thank you sharing this with us. How lucky those girls are to have you both. So much love to heal all around. I can’t wait to see and hug you.

  12. So many people are sending positive thoughts your way. Only time will heal. So thankful that Madi and Zoee have you and your husband. Hat tip to Sandpearl Resort for their thoughtful outreach. One day at a time.

  13. Rita says:

    Oh Sandi this is beautifully written. Even though I was aware of the loss of your lovely daughter reading this took my breath away. Thank you for sharing and teaching me how life can go on with such a loss. I continue to send you my love, hugs and prayers.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sandi–I can’t even imagine. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings and what you’ve learned. Blessings to all of you as you are on this long journey.

  15. Elyse says:

    You are such an inspiration Sandi, this is a beautiful piece. My heart is with your family and with you on your healing journey.

  16. Lucia jones says:

    I just now saw this. I’m so sorry.
    I’m so sorry I was too tied up in my own grief to see anything beyond.
    Know that my heart aches for you and your family.

  17. Sandy,

    We’ve quietly follow your painful journey and have sent many prayers on your behalf for healing. While trying to understand God’s plans for us in this life is simply folly, nonetheless, our hearts do tend to cry for a reason. And sadly, as much as we desire to understand, we just don’t, and there doesn’t seem to be any answer.

    We continue our prayers for healing for your family, and please know that you’re all in our thoughts. HUGS! And, I’m glad that your time away delivered a measure of the continued healing that is certain to come. Love you!

  18. JP says:


  19. Donna Drury says:

    My heart aches for you. I`m just so sorry about Krystal. Anytime you have a minute I`d love to catch up.

  20. sarottejohn says:

    Thanks for sharing. I love traveling. These are quiet intersting. Lovely. Keep sharing.

  21. Robin King says:

    No words, but thank you for sharing. A reminder of just how precious life truly is.

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